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Using state-of-the-art technology, the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) can extend the life of children awaiting heart transplantation. It can be set up to assist the pumping force of one or two ventricles ("pumping chambers") of the heart.
The device has two connections for the left and right side of the heart. The right connection (cannula) takes blood returning to the heart and pumps the blood back into the pulmonary artery from where it goes to the lungs to receive oxygen. The left connection (cannula) is attached to the tip of the left ventricle and pumps oxygenated blood through the aorta into the rest of the body. These pumps remain outside the body and come in several sizes to accommodate the size of the child. The pumps are controlled by a computer and power unit at the bedside.
The main use for VAD is to serve as a bridge to cardiac transplantation. The VAD, unlike ECMO, can be used as a long-term option for patients in heart failure; ECMO, on the other hand, is used as a rescue option for patients and can be limited to seven or ten days.
Many children have survived for several months on a VAD. In addition to extending the time a child can wait for a transplant, the VAD has other functions, such as giving the heart time to recover from certain acquired heart diseases like myocarditis.